Choi Hyung-woo also gets even scarier with KIA’s ‘base expansion’… and challenges ‘Tigers’ new history’ as well

January 12, 2024 | by

KIA Tigers’ “running baseball” will become even scarier with the newly introduced base size expansion in the 2024 season.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said, “We held the first board meeting in 2024 and finalized the application of ABS (automatic pitch determination system) for this season. In addition, we decided on the timing of sequential introduction and application in consideration of the importance and urgency of major systems such as pitch clock and expansion of base size. We also revised regulations related to multi-year contracts for non-FA players.”

The expansion of base size will be introduced from the first half of both the KBO League and the Futures League by installing new bases in each stadium in February. More exciting plays are expected due to a decrease in the number of injuries to players and an increase in stolen base attempts, which has benefited from the Major League, which introduced an expansion of base size one step earlier. According to a report released by the U.S. media The Athletic in November last year, the success rate of stolen base in the 2023 season was 80.2 percent, the highest ever. The ratio of stolen base attempts was 1.8, the highest since 2012, and five out of 30 teams achieved 150 steals. It was the first time in 2023 that there are five teams with more than 150 stolen bases in a team in the 21st century. In addition, six players stole more than 40 steals in 10 years, and 51 players stole more than 20 steals in 34 years.

While many stolen bases are expected to be poured into the KBO league, Kia, which has many fast-paced resources, is notable. KIA has two players who already had 40 steals in a season even before expanding its base. The first player that comes to mind is Park Chan-ho (29), who twice won the title of stolen base with 39 steals in 2019 and 41 steals in 2022. Park had a career-high season last year with a batting average of 0.301 in 130 games, 52 RBIs, 73 runs and 30 steals in his 10th year since his debut, and an on-base percentage of 0.356 slugging percentage of 0.378 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of 0.734. As the team is exploding its potential by increasing batting productivity every year, Park is expected to play a leading role as a shortstop again this year.

Choi Won-joon (27) is a leadoff outfielder who can expect 40 steals a year. Before joining the Army Sports Unit, Choi showed off his batting potential and was considered a leadoff for the next generation of KIA. He spent the career-high season with a batting average of 0.326 and an OPS of 0.808 in 2020, and in 2021, just before joining the Army, he stole the second largest number of bases in the league with a batting average of 0.295 in 143 games, 44 homers, 82 RBIs, 40 stolen bases with an OPS of 0.742.

Lastly, Kim Do-young (21) is highly regarded as a rising star, with high expectations that he would be able to garner 50 steals if he plays a full season in good health. Last year, he showed 42 paces in 84 games and 25 steals, proving some of why he is judged as such. Cho Jae-young (44), Kia’s first-team operations-base coach, told Star News at the U.S. spring camp last year, “Kim Do-young’s physical capabilities are overwhelming. He is by far the best in our team in speed, and he is similar to Kim Hye-sung (25, Kiwoom Heroes) in the entire league,” adding, “Kim Hye-sung, who is experienced, is ahead of others in his ability as a runner right now. However, if he gets more experience after playing as a starting pitcher in good health, he will be able to garner 50 steals a season.”

Expectations are even higher for Kia’s running baseball because of coach Cho Jae-young, who allows even Choi Hyung-woo (41), who is slow with 28 stolen bases in total, to steal bases. Jo, who joined the team ahead of the 2022 season, has significantly improved Kia’s strategy performance by banking on its leadership philosophy that success rate is more important than the number of stolen bases. “When I first came to KIA, it was true that Kia lacked fast players compared to Kiwoom (former team). However, I think success rate is more important than the number of stolen bases,” Cho said, explaining his theory. “This means that the team allows players to play when they need to play 라바카지노, in line with the player’s main focus and circumstances at the time.”

A case in point was Choi Hyung-woo, who stole second base against Jung Woo-young and Heo Do-hwan batteries against the LG Twins on October 5, 2022. At that time, Choi Hyung-woo took advantage of Jung Woo-young, who was slow in quick motion, and the guard of the opponent’s battery to record a solo steal for the first time in four years since the match against the Incheon SK Wyverns (now SSG Landers) on June 27, 2018.

As a result, Kia, which had 73 steals (9th in the league) and 70.2 percent (5th) in the 2021 season, saw its efficiency significantly improve with 103 steals (1st) and 75.7 percent (3rd) just one year after Cho’s inauguration. Last year, when the team recognized its players to some extent, it also increased its attempted stealing rate from 6.2 percent to 7.3 percent, while recording a higher stolen base success rate (78.2 percent, second in the league) and more stolen bases (122 steals). In the meantime, it also lowered the probability of running base, which had been pointed out as a disappointment, from 4.59 percent in the Korean baseball statistics site Statistics to 3.16 percent.

Attention is focusing on whether the team will be able to break the record for the first time in the Tigers’ history. Until now, the Tigers have consistently produced great numbers such as Kim Il-kwon, Lee Soon-cheol, Lee Jong-beom, Kim Jong-guk and Lee Yong-kyu, but there has never been a duo that recorded more than 40 steals a year. By expanding the scope, there were several 30-stealing duo, but there was no 30-stealing trio. Therefore, if Park Chan-ho, Choi Won-joon and Kim Do-young all succeed in 40 steals, they will write a new history of the team.

Even considering the entire KBO league, there are only four cases where a team has three players who recorded more than 30 steals per season. In 2007, Doosan Bears’ Lee Jong-wook (47), Ko Young-min (36) and Min Byung-hun (30), Heroes’ Lee Taek-geun (43), Hwang Jae-gyun (30), Kim Il-kyung (30), Samsung Lions’ Cho Dong-chan (33), Lee Young-wook (30), Kim Sang-soo (30), and 2015 Park Min-woo (46), Kim Jong-ho (41), and Eric Thames (40), which surprised the team by producing a first-ever 40 steals.


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